(director: J. Lee Thompson; screenwriters: based on the Oliver Bleeck novel “The Procane Chronicle”/Barry Beckerman; cinematographer: Lucien Ballard; editor: Michael F. Anderson; music: Lalo Shifrin; cast: Charles Bronson (Raymond St. Ives), John Houseman (Abner Procane), Dana Elcar (Lt. Charles Blunt), Jacqueline Bisset (Janet Whistler), Maximillian Schell (Dr. Jonathan Constable), Joseph Roman (Seymour), Harris Yulin (Det. Carl Oller), Jeff Goldblum (Hood in Elevator), Daniel J. Travanti (Johnny Parisi), Val Bisoglio (Finley Cummins), Dick O’Neill (Hesh), Elisha Cook (Eddie), Michael Lerner (Myron Green), Burr De Benning (Officer Fran), Harry Guardino (Det. Frank Deal); Runtime:  94; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Stanley S. Canter/Pancho Kohner; Warner Bros.; 1976)

“The great cinematographer Lucien Ballard provides rich locale shots of an L.A. that looks unprepared for a noir film in color.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

J. Lee Thompson (“Desert Attack”/”10 to Midnight”) was born in Bristol, England, and started out as a playwright. This thriller, a soporific one that’s awkwardly directed, is based on the Oliver Bleeck novel “The Procane Chronicle.” Barry Beckerman’s implausible script wants to reflect on why people who are not bad are tempted to become bad (trying to get us to think of Watergate without mentioning Watergate). It never manages to say much about anything that matters and has trouble explaining its complex plot of double-crosses, various murders, shady deals or the dirty cops. The plot takes the entire film to spit out its complexities, and even when the story is resolved it’s still not quite finished yet. The great cinematographer Lucien Ballard provides rich locale shots of an L.A. that looks unprepared for a noir film in color. Though I enjoyed shots of the character actor Elisha Cook, the night clerk in a cheap hotel, sleeping on the lobby chair with the fake leather. He had the right idea on how to see the film.
Raymond St. Ives (Charles Bronson) is a former police writer who quit to write a novel and live in a dumpy hotel while struggling financially (nevertheless he still drives a Jaguar). His sleazy lawyer agent (Michael Lerner) gets him a job as a go-between for the wealthy sixty-five-year-old eccentric Abner Procane (John Houseman), who is a criminal master-mind and a film buff with a home movie set-up where he watches oldie classics like The Big Parade and The Birth of a Nation. His assistant is a beautiful ex-cop, Janet Whistler (Jacqueline Bisset). His shrink is Dr. Constable (Maximillian Schell), who jabbers away as if he was a head case and not a shrink. You got me why Doc and the assistant are both named for artists.

The cool St. Ives finds the crook he was to give a $100,000 in exchange for the four ledgers he stole that are Abner’s personal property, dead in the dryer of a laundry-mat.

After multiple other incidents, it turns out the Bronson character may be the only honest person in Los Angeles. I almost forgot to mention St. Ives was mugged by three street punks, with one of them being Jeff Goldblum. Ives was pushed down an elevator shaft by them before escaping and roughing them up.

In some circles such crap might pass for OK mindless entertainment.

REVIEWED ON 8/25/2022  GRADE: C+